The Sheik and the Princess in Waiting(Desert Rogues, Book 7)(3) by Susan Mallery
More questions she was unlikely to get answered. When she tried pumping Alex for information, he remained pleasant but uncommunicative.
One restless night in a luxury cabin, several time zones and a pit stop for gas later, Emma didn’t know any more than she had when she’d stepped onto the plane in Dallas. The difference was they were coming in for landing at an airport on the edge of the desert.
She stared out the window and tried to keep her mouth from falling open. The sights beneath were so beautiful they nearly took her breath away.
Turquoise-blue water lapped up against a pure white beach. There were miles of buildings, lush foliage and sprawling suburbs that gradually gave way to the endless beige and browns of the desert. Emma could see pockets of industry, large buildings that appeared ancient and what looked like dozens of parks throughout the city before the plane banked and headed for the airport.
They landed with a light bump, then taxied to a low one-story building. As Alex picked up his small overnight case, Emma fumbled for her purse.
She was escorted onto the tarmac where the late afternoon was warm, sunny and dry. And bright. After the confines of the plane, she found the sunlight nearly blinding. Three steps later, she entered a pleasant room where a man in uniform actually bowed when she presented herself and her open passport.
“Ms. Kennedy,” he said, flashing a smile, “welcome to Bahania. May your journey be pleasant and blessed.”
“Thank you,” she murmured, wondering if everyone was always so polite. Not that she was going to complain. She could get used to this level of service.
The surprises weren’t over. Minutes later Alex escorted her to another large limo. Inside she found a bottle of champagne sitting on ice and a small bouquet of flowers.
“For me?” she asked as Alex sat next to her.
“I doubt the king meant them for me,” he told her.
Good point. Emma sniffed the roses. When Alex pointed to the bottle of champagne, she shook her head.
“I didn’t sleep,” she admitted. “Between being exhausted, the strange circumstances and the time change, the last thing I need is liquor.”
She already felt woozy enough.
As they pulled out of the airport, Alex began to talk to her about the city. He pointed out the financial district, the old shopping bazaar, the entrance to the famous Bahanian beaches. Emma did her best to pay attention, but the longer they were on the road, the more she regretted her decision to come. Sure, Bahania was beautiful and all, but she’d just traveled halfway around the world with a man she didn’t know to meet a king she’d barely heard of, and aside from her traveling companion and the king, no one on the planet knew where she was.
It was not a situation designed to make one relax.
Forty minutes later, the limo drove through an open gate, past several guards and what felt like miles of manicured grounds. She stared out the window until she saw the first hints of the fabled pink palace.
“This is so not happening,” she murmured, still unable to believe this was real.
The limo pulled up in front of the entrance. At least she assumed that’s what the arched doorway and alcove big enough for a marching band was for.
“We’re here,” Alex said, confirming her suspicions.
She glanced at him. “What happens now?”
“You meet the king.”
Great. If there was a survey at the end of this, she was going to mention Alex’s lack of information as one of her complaints.
The limo door opened. Alex climbed out, then stepped aside so she could exit.
Emma smoothed down the skirt she’d changed into on the plane and sucked in a breath for courage. It wasn’t close to enough, so she wasn’t surprised to find herself shaking as she stepped out in the warm afternoon.
Several people stood by the palace: Alex, the limo driver, a few uniformed men who could have been servants, but no one who looked like a king. So did royalty wait indoors for their visitors? Shouldn’t Alex have briefed her on that sort of thing?
Before she could ask him, there was a movement to her left. Emma turned and saw a man step out of the shadows. He was tall, darkly handsome and almost familiar.
Then the sun hit him full in the face and she gasped in stunned amazement. It couldn’t be. Not after all this time. She’d thought…He would never…
The combination of shock, lack of sleep and food, and jet lag, conspired to increase her heart rate from nervous to hummingbird speed. The blood rushed from her head to her feet in two seconds flat. The world spun, blurred, then faded completely as she collapsed to the ground.
Prince Reyhan glanced at his father, the king of Bahania, and shook his head.
“That went well.”
Several servants rushed toward the fallen woman. Reyhan brushed them aside and crouched beside Emma. He took her wrist in his hand and felt her pulse.
Rapid, but steady.
“Call a doctor,” he said firmly.
Someone went scuttling to do his bidding.
“She didn’t hit her head,” a young woman told him as she gently touched Emma’s forehead. “I was watching as she fainted, Your Highness.”
“Thank you. Are her rooms prepared?”
The woman nodded.
Reyhan gathered Emma into his arms. She lay limp, one hand pressing against his chest, the other dangling by her side. Her skin had paled and her breathing slowed.
He took a moment to study her long lashes and the fullness of her mouth. The thick, red hair he remembered hung in loose waves around her face. So much was the same, he thought. No doubt if he counted, he would find that there were still eleven freckles on her nose and cheeks.
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